"The Votemaster" is the guy behind electoral-vote.com, which the Prospect has teamed up with to bring you polling analysis and predictions for the 2012 election. You can find out more about him by clicking here.
Conservatives who cheered Mitt Romney's selection of Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, as his running mate in the hope this indicated a more aggressive, more conservative stance for Romney have been sorely disappointed. They had expected Ryan's bold style to rub off on Romney. Instead, it is the other way: Ryan has become muted and vague, like Romney. The problem is certainly not Ryan. All vice-presidential candidates know who is the boss and Ryan is surely doing precisely what his boss wants: looking sharp but be vague about all the details.
In the six weeks since he was tapped, Ryan hasn't given a single national press conference, although he has done interviews for local media outlets—which typically don't push the interviewee very hard. His stump speech rarely mentions his plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system. Instead, he attacks President Obama and plays up his bow hunting abilities and working-class background. None of this is the red meat conservatives had expected, but one see's Team Romney's fingerprints all over it. The one time he did talk about Medicare, at the annual AARP convention, he was roundly booed. To make things even worse, he was supposed to put Wisconsin in play, but our current average of six recent polls gives Obama a lead there of 51 pecent to 45 percent.
In 2004, George Bush won 31 states and 286 electoral votes. An obvious question is: "Can Romney follow Bush's path?" The answer appears to be no. If Romney were to win all the Bush states, he would have 292 electoral votes due to changes from the 2010 census. For starters, New Mexico looks hopeless and Iowa not much better bringing Romney from 292 to 281, still enough to win though. Increasingly, Ohio looks tough for him. Without its 18 electoral votes, he is down to 263 and a loss. Furthermore, Virginia is looking ever more Democratic. Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and North Carolina are tossups now. Unless something changes quickly, the Bush path is not going to work for Romney.
Mitt Romney has changed his positions so many times that nobody knows who he is and what he stands for. Republican operatives are advising him to just be himself in the debates. He should claim to be a successful businessman and governor and just talk about himself and his vision for the country. So far that has proved quite difficult for him, however. But to win, he has to come off as a sincere, credible leader. Just attacking Obama day and night over the economy won't get him where he needs to be.
Democrats are already trying to raise the debate stakes for Romney by pointing out the fact that Romney is a very experienced debater, having participated in 20 primary debates this year, while Obama hasn't debated since 2008 and is a bit rusty. But it is true that Romney needs a clear win, not a tie, in the first debate to start getting momentum.
While Mitt Romney's normal mode of transportation is the chartered aircraft, this week he is taking the bus. In particular, he is planning to barnstorm through Ohio, a state he absolutely must win and in which he now appears to trail in. He will travel around the state for three days, stopping in Cleveland, Dayton, Columbus, and Toledo. He hopes to be able to connect with the voters after spending the weekend in Southern California at high-dollar fundraisers with wealthy donors.
For many congressional candidates, especially ones running for the first time, the lifeblood of their campaign is financing from the parties' national committees, the DCCC and NRCC, respectively. Now that the national conventions and Labor Day have come and gone, the national committees are taking stock. Those candidates deemed able to win on their own won't get any money. Those expected to lose no matter what won't, either. Only those whose victory depends on national money will get financing. It won't be pretty for the people cut off but the parties are pretty hard headed about this. In some cases, superPACs and others may disagree with the parties' judgment and come to the aid of the candidates cut off, but it is up to the candidates to arrange this. The chairman of the DCCC is Rep. Steve Israels (D-NY). The NRCC is run by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX). Neither of these is in any danger, so both can devote all their time to helping other candidates in need.
The parties also have Senate committees, the DSCC, chaired by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), and the NRSC, chaired by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). They perform similar roles but are not as critical as senators and senatorial candidates are much better known than ones running for the House and are often better at scrounging up money, so they are not as dependent on the national committees as House candidates. This is also true for first-time candidates since nobody gets to be a Senate nominee in a competitive state without a bruising primary and winning that means the candidate is capable of fundraising.
If Congress does the one thing it is really good at--nothing--the Bush tax cuts will expire at midnight Dec. 31, 2012. In addition, automatic budget cuts will take effect for both social programs and defense as a result of Congress kicking the can down the road on the budget. Nobody wants to go over the fiscal cliff but Democrats and Republicans have totally different visions of what should be done to avert the crisis. More and more voices in Congress are saying: let the voters decide. What this means in practice is that if President Obama is reelected and the Democrats keep control of the Senate, mainstream Republicans in the House will side with the Democrats and approve some tax increases. The tea party Republicans will howl at the moon, but assuming the Democrats pick up some seats, they plus the mainstream Republicans will have enough votes to move the bill. Senate Republicans will understand they have to go along with the deal. If Romney is elected President and the Republicans capture the Senate, then Democrats will understand that they have to accept tax cuts for the rich.
If the verdict is mixed, it gets dicier. With Obama as President and Republican control of Congress, Obama could play hardball and just go over the cliff. Then in early January he could announce that he is willing to sign a bill with tax cuts for the middle class but not for incomes over $250,000. If the Republicans refuse the deal, then all taxes will stay at the levels they were during the Clinton administration, something the Republicans desperately want to avoid. It could get messy. Both sides hope the voters will give them a clear mandate and the other side will be forced to concede.
The bounce President Obama got from the Democratic convention shows no sign of fading and both sides are worried. One reason the polls are not moving is that people have made up their minds and there are hardly any voters left to swing. A large fraction are not really strongly for either candidate but are strongly against one of them. One voter said he'd vote for Saddam Hussein before he'd vote for Barack Hussein but another called Romney the devil. Not much motion is likely there.
Romney's team can read the handwriting on the wall and the pixels on the monitor and is trying to put on a brave face, saying: "We've got a campaign which is tied with an incumbent president [of] the United States." The team knows that in the national polls, it is fairly close, but in this graph of the electoral college Romney has been behind all year and is now down 122 electoral votes. They feel that some fundamentals (such as the poor jobs situation) put them in a strong position, while at the same time ignoring other economic indicators (such as a booming stock market) that favor Obama. They say they have a plan to right their ship and will roll it out this week.
A new Purple Strategies poll of 12 swing states shows President Obama with a lead of 49% to 44% over Mitt Romney. In August, the same poll had Romney ahead by 1%, so this is a sharp swing towards Obama. Part of Romney's problem is that only 38% of the voters see him in a favorable light vs. 52% who regard him unfavorably. Obama's favorability is above water with 49% to 46%.
Willard M. Romney has released his 379-page tax return. His income was $13.69 million, of which $450,740 was earned (business) income. The rest was mostly interest, dividends, and capital gains. He paid $1.9 million in federal tax. Below is the income portion of Romney's tax return.